The Maserati Levante was by no means purported to have a V8. Like its Ghibli sedan sibling, Maserati’s SUV was solely slated to make use of V6 energy, in 345- and 424-horsepower states of tune. However some artful Italians determined to see if the Quattroporte GTS’ three.Eight-liter V8 may match underneath the SUV’s hood, and presto, the 550-horsepower Levante GTS and 575-horsepower Trofeo have been born.

This Ferrari-built V8 feels proper at residence in Maser’s midsize SUV. And after every week of testing a GTS mannequin in and round Los Angeles, I am unable to think about shopping for a Levante with out it.

V8, v nice

I am keen to check the extra highly effective Levante Trofeo, however because it stands, I’ve no complaints concerning the GTS’ 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. Maserati quotes a Zero-to-60 mile-per-hour time of four seconds flat, and onerous acceleration is accompanied by the kind of sonorous wail you’d count on from an eight-cylinder engine made in Maranello.

Beautiful as the massive, steering column-mounted paddle shifters are to make use of, I choose to let the Levante select its personal journey. Shifts are buttery clean whereas cruising, or sharp and exact when operating with aggression. Go simple on the throttle and the eight-speed computerized will shift with effectivity in thoughts, and also you would possibly hit the EPA-estimated freeway gasoline financial system ranking of 18 miles per gallon. However for those who’re like me, and also you spend each waking second frightening the engine to sing the track of its folks, you may see numbers far nearer to the 14-mpg metropolis ranking — if not much less.

Not gonna lie, I used to be form of anticipating the Levante GTS to be a one-trick pony of straight-line brute drive. However a day romp within the canyons close to my default photograph shoot location revealed in any other case. With the GTS in its Sport setting, the air suspension lowers, the dampers get stiffer and the steering wheel provides a pleasant serving to of heft to its motion. Do not get me improper, that is nonetheless a high-riding, four,784-pound SUV, nevertheless it’s no slouch alongside the winding roads of California’s Angeles Nationwide Forest. The SUV pitches and dives underneath braking, however the stoppers themselves — carryover Brembo items from the Levante S — keep robust. There’s acceptable quantities of physique roll when cornering onerous, however the optionally available Pirelli P Zero tires provide large grip.

It may need Maserati logos, however this three.Eight-liter, twin-turbo V8 comes from Ferrari. Molto bella!

Maserati

The GTS comes normal with 20-inch wheels, however you’ll be able to choice 21s (as seen on my take a look at automotive) and even 22s. I used to be initially anxious that the upmarket 21s would smash the experience high quality over poorly surfaces Los Angeles metropolis streets, however fortunately, the adaptive suspension does a pleasant job of softening as much as filter out pavement imperfections if you’re simply operating errands round city. And in contrast to fellow Italian hot-ute Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the Levante GTS is not a herky-jerky mess if you’re simply making an attempt to get by way of the Goal car parking zone. The throttle, brakes and transmission all calm down and behave like good gents. The Levante GTS shouldn’t be an always-on beast that you just continually must tame.

Having spent a while in Porsche’s third-generation 2019 Cayenne Turbo, my intestine says it is the SUV I might decide for spirited drives. Its chassis has higher general stability, and its steering is a bit more direct. Land Rover’s Vary Rover Sport SVR is one other good choice, with its personal mix of ripsnorting V8 grunt, however the Maserati feels tighter and nimbler when pushed onerous. I might even be remiss to not point out Maserati’s company stablemate, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which in 707-horsepower Trackhawk guise is a full $30,000 lower than the $119,980 beginning MSRP of the Levante GTS, and shares plenty of the identical inside switchgear and tech.

In profile, the Levante GTS has a tall, sporty wagon vibe that I actually like.

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Excessive lux, however a bit of too acquainted

It is no secret that plenty of the Levante’s inside is made up of Fiat-Chrysler components bin gear. Should you’ve ever sat in a Grand Cherokee, you may acknowledge the flip sign stalk, engine begin button, headlight controls, window switches and numerous objects on the middle stack. Different plastic panels and stylized bits of trim — just like the high-gloss fake carbon fiber on the middle console — do not feel all that premium, both. A lot of this cabin simply feels prefer it’s been ripped from an SRT-badged Jeep.

However that is to not say the Levante is not comfy and opulent. Positive leather-based trims the game seats, which come normal with heating and air flow. A gentle Alcantara headliner seems to be good above my head, and the aforementioned shift paddles are completed in aluminum, and really feel nice in opposition to my fingertips. Passengers in each rows of seats have ample lodging, with plenty of head- and legroom, even for taller people.

When pressed into cargo-hauling SUV obligation, the Levante is loads ready, with 21 cubic ft of area behind the rear seats, or 57 cubic ft with the again bench folded. That stated, because of their extra upright shapes, the Land Rover Vary Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne provide extra capacious boots. One thing to contemplate if you must routinely have to haul whereas hauling ass.

It is cozy and properly appointed, however you may discover plenty of acquainted Fiat-Chrysler switchgear and tech contained in the Levante’s cabin.

Maserati

Uconnect tech, with one annoying quirk

As Andrew Krok stated in his current Maserati Ghibli overview, “borrowed tech is sweet tech.” I am unable to fault Maserati for utilizing guardian firm FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system — with its giant icons, colourful graphics and quick response instances, it is a system that is tremendous simple and intuitive to make use of.

However in a quirk that is distinctive to the Levante, there’s one irritating anomaly about this Uconnect setup. As a result of Maserati incorporates the stop-start system’s on/off button within the backside row of shortcut buttons, it means one thing from the usual Uconnect menu needed to be eliminated. The icon that did not make the minimize? Navigation. If you wish to entry nav, you must faucet the middle Maserati icon to dive right into a management panel, and you will find navigation in that bigger financial institution of icons. That stated, given how tough the stop-start system is, I am glad its on/off change is definitely accessible.

On the very least, embedded navigation is normal, in addition to Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. A bevy of driver help tech, however, is all bundled in a $1,590 driver help bundle that features adaptive cruise management, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping help, a 360-degree digicam, ahead collision warning and site visitors signal recognition. It is definitely not extraordinary for luxurious automakers to cost further for these optionally available extras ( you, Porsche), however at $120,000 to begin, it appears bizarre to upsell this security tech.

These 21-inch wheels are a $2,200 choice.

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How I might spec it

Nonetheless, at $119,980, the Levante GTS comes actually properly geared up. I additionally love the GTS-specific design components just like the body-colored entrance splitter and matte black rear diffuser encompass. In reality, I believe the Levante is likely one of the best-looking Maserati merchandise, full cease. And contemplating how attractive the Ghibli and Quattroporte are, that is saying one thing.

I might paint my Levante GTS in Blu Emozione, and have the inside achieved up in Cuoio brown leather-based. From there, I am going to take a set of 21-inch, gloss black wheels ($1,800), the aforementioned driver help bundle ($1,590) and the optionally available matrix LED headlights ($1,890; bi-xenon lamps come normal). That places my good GTS at $125,260, which is not an enormous step up from the mannequin’s base MSRP.

The Levante GTS is a compelling different to the Porsche Cayenne Turbo or Vary Rover Sport SVR.

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A worthy contender

$120 giant is some huge cash, however not absurd when you think about the aggressive set. A Porsche Cayenne Turbo begins at $124,600, the Vary Rover Sport SVR is available in at $113,600 and the outgoing Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S prices $109,700. Once more, it is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk that actually gives one of the best worth comparability, to me, with extra energy, and the identical switchgear and tech, for $86,200.

The one factor these different automobiles do not have, nonetheless, is a Maserati Trident on the nostril. And whilst you can come to your personal conclusion about what that actually means as of late, the reality is, for luxurious consumers, the Maserati identify nonetheless carries big panache.

However not like the Ghibli, the Levante is not only a very good automotive in a category of nice choices. Due to its new V8 coronary heart, the Levante GTS stands tall with one of the best efficiency SUVs from around the globe. And to suppose, it wasn’t even purported to occur.

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